History of Swaami Ayyappan worship in South Africa
South African Indians. in the apartheid South Africa, held on to their religious traditions, customs and ceremonies in order to keep their children in touch with their rich religious and cultural history.
Swaami Ayyappan worship was brought to South Africa by a gentleman from India called “boiler Ramsamy” to New Clair in Johannesburg in 1950 . Not much is known about Mr. Ramsamy except that he was a very devoted Ayyappan bhaktan. He brought a moorthie of Lord Ayyappan, similar to the one found at Acchan Kovil ( Ayyappan with consorts Poornaa and Pushkalaa , representing the grihasthaa form).
This moorthie was housed in a “mandapam”/shrine in his yard in New Claire, Johannesburg.
Mr. Ramsmay performed his worship at home privately. When he died this moorthie was donated to the Germiston temple by his children. In the Germiston temple Ayyanaar worship was performed regularly, every year from about 1956 during the month of June.
The community of Pretoria went yearly to Germiston, in June, to participate in the worship and Mrs Ammakannu Kolapan regularly sent money to a temple in India performing the worship of Ayyannaar. The community of Laudium, Pretoria , began Ayyannaar poojai in 1968( about 12 years after they started in Germiston and 18 years after it was brought to South Africa by Mr “boiler” Ramsamy). This became a very popular celebration in Pretoria and was started by Mrs Ammaakannu Kolapan and Mr. “Rank” Marie Pillay who were members of the Laudium Tamil Association.
Three popular songs were written by them and sung by the grand children of Mrs Aammakannu Kolapan namely Mr. Gonie Chinsamy, Sagree Paul, Rajgopal Kolapan and Renugavathy Kolapan. The music was composed by Mr. Coopoosamy Paul,also a grandson of Mrs. Ammakannu Kolapan. The three songs were 1) Shivanum thirumaalum padaitthu ayyanaareh 2) Unnai andreh theivam yeh nee and 3) Ullagellaam unartharullaal . For the first celebration in Laudium Dr.Rajgopal Kolapan, Jayaram”Karthie” Kolapen, , Arumugam “Taal” Krishnasamy( all 12 years) , Ranga Kolapen, Saantham Chinsamy, Gonie Chinsamy wore a piece of white clothe(“ vehshti”), around their waists and carried a white horse around a decorated tent, housing the alter for Ayyannaar, under a big tree where the present Shivan Aalayam stands. .
After the film “Swaami Ayyappan” and Sri K. Veeramani’s recording of the famous “Palli kaddu” and “Bhagavaan saranam” was released the worship of Swaami Ayyappan at the festivals previously dedicated to Ayyannaar, began. Many South Africans undertook the journey to Sabarimala and of note was the very devoted Mr. Sidney Pillay, and family of Benoni(Mr. Raggie Pillay and Thirumani Rajespari Pillay) and Mr.Moggie Kolapen and Mrs. Neelavathy Kolapen from Laudium, Pretoria. The popularity of the festival in Laudium became greater than that in Germiston, and it would be truthful to say that the Shivan Aalayam in Laudium generated the most amount of money for its construction through the name of Swaami Ayyappan and its Ayyappan festival “traditionally” celebrated in June.
In 1994 Dr. Rajgopal Kolapan fulfilled his life long dream of going on pilgrimage to Sabarimalai, in Kerala South India. Together with a very close friend and later ardent supporter of Pretoria Bhajanai Mandram, Mr.Vijay Jamnadas Khatri. Dr. Raj Kolapan, was overwhelmed by the darshan of lord Ayyappaa and left with an inexplicable deep desire, never felt before, to build an Ayyappan temple.